JOSEF FRANK

The New York Times arrives in our driveway every morning and I am guilty of either not reading it at all, or turning to a very select number of sections, namely the Food and Arts sections. I know... it's terrible.

But yesterday I didn't feel guilty at all and I was rewarded with loveliest of spreads about Josef Frank, Austrian architect and textile and furniture designer. I actually didn't know much about him, and given my architectural background and soft spot for the decorative arts, I'm kinda mad at my younger self for not having discovered his work sooner.

Textile: "Brazil", 1943–1945. © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden. Interior, Villa Beer, photograph by Stefan Oláh.

Textile: "Brazil", 1943–1945. © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden. Interior, Villa Beer, photograph by Stefan Oláh.

The article points to an extensive exhibition, Josef Frank: Against Design, currently at the MAK in Vienna. The curator, Sebastian Hackenschmidt describes Josef Frank as “one of the most underrated architects and designers of the 20th century. His work is impossible to categorize, as he refused to align with any of the design movements of the time, or to develop an identifiable style.”

Sofa, fabric covering "Celotocaulis", 1940s. © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden

Sofa, fabric covering "Celotocaulis", 1940s. © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden

Photography courtesy MAK / Aslan Kudrnofsky

Photography courtesy MAK / Aslan Kudrnofsky

The NY Times article continues: "His output was bafflingly eclectic, from Cubist-influenced houses to reinventions of Shaker chests and 18th-century English wooden chairs. Determined to use design as a means of enriching daily life, Frank created objects to last and focused on then-unfashionable qualities like comfort and ease in the hope that people would feel relaxed with his designs."

I am wishing I could teleport myself over to Vienna for this exhibit. Tout de suite! It looks like an beautiful and thoughtful installation. An article in Wallpaper further describes the exhibition:"In tribute to Frank’s own individual spatial planning strategy, 'The House as Path and Place', which was based on differentiated room levels and heights, open circulation spaces and galleries, a balcony will be installed in the MAK Exhibition Hall to allow the exhibition to be viewed from above and experienced three-dimensionally." It's nice to see a gallery space activated spatially like this.

Photography courtesy MAK / Aslan Kudrnofsky

Photography courtesy MAK / Aslan Kudrnofsky

Interior, Villa Beer, photograph by Stephan Huger. Textile: "Teheran", 1943–1945. © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden

Interior, Villa Beer, photograph by Stephan Huger. Textile: "Teheran", 1943–1945. © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden

The NY Times article ends on a rather depressing note about Frank's own feelings of career disappointment, but I feel so inspired by these wild bursts of colors and textures alongside these clean and quiet architectural spaces.  For me, it's a reminder that one's creative work can successfully oscillate between varying styles and tastes and time and place, and still represent a fantastic aesthetic wholeness.

And, of course, now I dream of reupholstering my couch.